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So Many Clever, Industrious and Frugal Aliens”: Peter Sandiford, Intelligence Testing, and Anti-Asian Sentiment in Vancouver Schools between 1920 and 1939

Gerald Thomson


In this article I explore a racist period in the history of Canadian education that has received scattered attention from scholars of Canadian educational history. This particular example of racism involved the use of intelligence tests to confirm notions of racial superiority and inferiority. For the 1925 Putman-Weir Survey of the School System in British Columbia Professor Peter Sandiford, of the University of Toronto, subjected the province’s schoolchildren to a regime of  intelligence tests. This became problematic when he found that the results achieved by “Oriental” or Asian (Chinese and Japanese Canadian) schoolchildren were superior to those achieved by white children. I discuss how this instance of anti-Asian sentiment fits into the broader educational history of Vancouver’s schools and the troubling pattern of racism within the overall history of British Columbia. This use of scientific racism through intelligence testing is disturbing and warrants closer examination within the context of its own time period. It is a cautionary historical tale about popular social attitudes and the drive for a dominant Anglo-white racial identity in the province.


racism, anti-Asian, Oriental, intelligence testing

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ISSN 0005-2949

BC Studies
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